BCA Supported Research In Action - Breast Cancer Alliance

BCA Supported Research In Action

It is important to us to follow the scientists we fund, not only while the funding is at play, but for years to follow. Impactful research takes time.  Here are the profiles of four past BCA grant recipients, and stories of how the BCA has helped them to accomplish what they have today:

Dr. Sumanta Goswami

Dr. Goswami, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Anatomy and Structural Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Biology at Yeshiva University.

His lab studies the molecular mechanism of metastatic dissemination and primary resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During his postdoctoral studies he discovered that the very cells that have to potential to become metastatic are also chemotherapy and radiation therapy resistant, even before any intervention is done to them. These studies lead to the basis for his 2007 Breast Cancer Alliance Young Investigator Grant on identification and characterization of invasive and drug resistant breast cancer cells.

“This grant was instrumental in formulating my career. This lead to the discovery of the invasive splice variant of a structural protein called Mena (1-3). MenaINV was patented (4) by Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and licensed to Metastat Inc. Diagnostic tests are currently being developed by Metastat for wide spread application. This grant also allowed me to develop single cell gene expression technology in my lab.” They applied this technology of on human oocytes from BRCA1 mutant patients in collaboration with scientists from New York Medical College (5). In 2012, along with his collaborators, he received an R01 grant from NCI in response to an RFA that challenged the cancer research community with 30 provocative questions that need to be addressed in order to cure cancer. Working on the grant they have recently discovered that MenaINV in required for hematogenous dissemination (6). Currently his lab is developing technologies to perform whole genome gene expression analysis from patient Fine Needle Aspirate derived cells that are capable of hematogenous dissemination. This study will lead to the identification of newer molecular mechanisms of the process by which cancer cells enter the blood vessel for spreading and will identify new key drug-able players in the process.

Since 2007, Dr. Goswami received promotion to Associate professor with tenure. “I strongly believe that the BCA YIG grant played a big role in my success. I continue to support BCA by reviewing their YIG and EPG grants for the last couple of years and am happy to help in any way I can.”


Dr. Yibin Kang

Dr. Yibin Kang is the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Dr. Kang obtained his Bachelor’s degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China and completed his graduate study at Duke University and postdoctoral training at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He joined the faculty of Princeton University in 2004 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010 and to Endowed Chair Professor in 2012. Dr. Kang is President-Elect of the Metastasis Research Society.

In 2011, Dr. Kang received an Exceptional Project Grant from the BCA to explore the role of of VCAM1 in the activation of dormant breast cancer bone micrometastasis. In that study, his team identified and validated VCAM1 as an important breast cancer gene that allows the escape of disseminated tumor cells in bone marrow from the dormant state, and promotes the formation of clinically significant bone metastasis.  Since more than 30% of early stage breast cancer patients eventually suffer from metastatic relapses, most frequently in bone, he believes this study has great potential to benefit a large number of breast cancer patients.

This work was published as a research article in Cancer Cell (Lu et al., 2011), the most prestigious scientific journal in cancer research, and also formed the basis for two successful grant applications, totaling over $8M.  Dr. Kang’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. His work discovered new genes that promote recurrence, metastasis and chemoresistance of breast cancer, delineated tumor-stromal interactions that are essential for metastatic growth, and identified novel functions of mammary gland cell fate regulators in breast cancer progression. Dr. Kang has published over 110 original articles in leading journals including Cell, Cancer Cell, and Nature Medicine. Dr. Kang’s outstanding achievements have been recognized by many prestigious awards, including a Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar Award (2006), the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Sciences (2011), the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research (2012), the Fidler Innovation Award from the Metastasis Research Society (2014), the Fuller Albright Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (2014) and the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award in Breast Cancer Research (2014).


Dr. Soheil Tavazoie

Dr. Tavazoie received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, his PhD from Harvard University and his MD from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.  Following a residency and internship in internal medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he joined Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as a clinical fellow in 2005 and became a research fellow in medical oncology in 2006.  He joined Rockefeller as an assistant professor in 2009.

In 2010, Dr. Tavazoie received the BCA Exceptional Project Grant focusing on discovery of molecules that regulate the levels of metastasis suppressor microRNAs in breast cancer.  Since then, his lab has identified altered expression of small-RNAs as defining features of cancers that metastasize.  They have found that miR-335 is a key small-RNA that suppresses metastasis by breast cancer cells.  This small-RNA shuts down the levels of multiple promoters of metastasis.  With the seed funding, they were able to show that human breast tumors have inactivated this small RNA.  They were also able to show how breast cancers inactivate this small-RNA and were able to study the role of another small-RNA, miR-126 in breast cancer metastasis.  They used this small-RNA as a bait to identify three key genes involved in breast cancer metastasis–igfbp2, mertk, and pitpnc1.  His lab is now working on these genes and developing therapeutic drugs to target them.  “The funding from BCA was quite helpful in jumpstarting our efforts.”


Dr. Qin Yan

Dr. Qin Yan received his B.S. degree from the University of Science and Technology of China. After receiving his Ph.D. training on regulation of transcription and ubiquitination with Drs. Joan and Ronald Conaway at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, he completed his postdoctoral training on cancer biology with HHMI Investigator Dr. William Kaelin at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Yan is currently an Associate Professor of Pathology at Yale Medical School and a member of Yale Comprehensive Cancer Center and Stem Cell Center.

He is the recipient of a 2010 Young Investigator Granch investigating the roles of histone demethylase JARID1B in breast cancer.  He has also received the V Scholar Award from the V Foundation for Cancer Research, and Stewart Trust Fellowship from the Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust, Research Scholar Award from American Cancer Society, and Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award. The main goals of his laboratory are to elucidate the roles of epigenetic events that drive breast cancer initiation and progression and to translate their findings to the clinic.

Dr. Yan was not trained as a breast cancer researcher during his PhD and postdoctoral training. “BCA’s support was my first external support, and combined with the collegial breast cancer community at Yale, it really facilitated my development into a breast cancer researcher.” The BCA supported project has become a full-fledged research program on histone demethylase JARDI1B in his laboratory and also facilitated the development of his research program on breast cancer metastasis and drug resistance. BCA support has led to 8 peer-reviewed publications on high impact journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Journal of Biological Chemistry, and 20 invited seminars in academia and industry.  Moreover, preliminary data from BCA supported project has led to 5 additional grants from National Cancer Institute and others, with a total cost of ~$837,000. These studies have also significantly benefited his other breast cancer research programs, supported by 3 related grants from Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, American Cancer Society, and Connecticut Department of Public Health, with a total cost of ~$2,306,000.  The results prompted him to develop small molecule inhibitors of JARID1B histone demethylase. In his 2013 Journal of Biological Chemistry paper, his lab has identified such inhibitors and showed that inhibition of this enzyme slows proliferation of HER2+ breast cancer cells. His project to identify small molecule inhibitors of JARID1B and JARID1A was selected by the highly competitive NCI Experimental Therapeutics Program, which will streamline development and testing of these promising new anticancer drugs and to expedite their delivery to the bedside. Of note, Dr. Yan is first and only Assistant Professor (when selected) who has obtained such support.